Thinking Out Loud

August 29, 2010

Sunday Seriousness

This morning we visited the Pentecostal church in our community.  The week before it was a Catholic church.   Two weeks ago we attended the Christian Reformed Church.

We know people in all these churches.   I could walk up and down each aisle and probably get about half the names right in most of our area churches, including the much larger Baptist church.    Part of it is that through my vocation, I get to interact with the larger Body of Christ.   So I feel that these people are family; I never really feel like a visitor.

But this morning I realized that in truth, these people are extended family.   Each particular congregation has its own personality, and the people with whom I feel most comfortable, the people who perhaps I most identify with, the people who I really want to spend a lot of time with; all those people are at another church, the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church.

The local Alliance church represents family as well, but nuclear family, not extended.   True brothers and sisters about whom I have written before, “We are invested in their lives, and they are invested in ours.”   A place where — as one person defined home: “when you go there they have to take you in.”   (More on that here.)(And here.)

Except for one or two people.

Maybe your family is like this.   A sibling or a parent with whom you just don’t see eye-to-eye and probably never will.   They kinda ruin it for you.  You go away but then you come back.   Maybe you’ve been abused physically or emotionally; but it’s home and damn it (your words, not mine!) you’re going to keep staking your claim.

Some people either don’t realize the damage they’re doing to other people, or they do realize it, and they revel in it.

Which is why we find ourselves in forced exile again.   It hurts my wife too much to go back; it hurts me too much to be away.   (An actual role reversal of how it’s been at previous times; they manage to get to us equally in different ways at different times.)

I met Mark several years ago.   He attended a similar church briefly and thought it would be the ideal spiritual environment for his two teenage sons.   He got involved himself in a midweek program, and, being a guy who has so much to give any local assembly, decided after a couple of weeks  to help stack the chairs when the meeting had ended.

“No, no;” someone quickly grabbed his arm; “That’s not how we do this.   We have an after-school program here and for insurance reasons we can only stack the chairs four chairs high.”

A little nuance  that had been lost on Mark.   But then they added, “Why don’t you just leave this job to someone else.”

Ouch.   A little over-the-top isn’t it?

Mark thought so.   He was a sensitive guy and that was a totally insensitive remark from someone in a respected leadership position.   He started to rethink the whole thing and decided to keep shopping for a church home.   He found one where the leadership team was a little less — for lack of a better term — anal; and where he could use his various gifts and desire to serve.

End of story, right?   Everybody wins, right?

Not exactly.   The new church didn’t have the same youth program for his teenage sons, and while nobody is blaming anybody, the lack of such a program may have contributed to where the boys are right now, which is not a very good place.

The similarities between Mark’s story and our story are huge.   Same kind of people.   Same pathetic mentality.

…I think it was Andy Stanley who said that “nobody has ever been hurt by a church; rather it’s people in the church who hurt people.”

Andy is right.

But sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.

Can’t wait to see where we go to church next week.

September 24, 2008

Delving into Classic Christian Authors

This week my kids and I are “binge reading” a number of devotionals from a collection by A. W. Tozer, one of the pioneers in the Christian & Missionary Alliance denomination.   His final pastorate was at the Avenue Road* Church in Toronto, Canada, which continues to this day as Bayview Glen Alliance.   Tozer is one of a number of classic reads, in a list that includes D. L. Moody, George Whitfield, Watchman Nee, Jonathan Edwards, E. M. Bounds and others.

What is it that’s different about reading classic authors like these?

Language
– Right away you notice that they speak with a different voice, and having studied the Philosophy of Language, I know that our use of words shapes our understanding.   There is also a greater economy of words on some points, but there is laborious repetition on others, so that we don’t miss something profound.  Clearly, the did understand some concepts somewhat differently than many of do today; and the “spin” on some Bible passages is distinctive by our standards.

Intensity – These classic writers endure because they were passionate about living the Christian life to the nth degree.  There is an urgency about their writings that is sorely lacking in some modern Christian literature.   Were they preaching to the choir, or were they voices crying in the wilderness?   Probably both, and with the same message for both.

Response – They wrote in response to the issues of their day, some of which are unknown to us now, but some of which are strikingly similar to the issues of our day.   There was a concern for a general apostasy, a watering-down of the gospel and of Christian ethics.   Is this just preacher rhetoric, or are things truly deteriorating with each successive generation?  Or do Bible teachers and preachers just get so “set apart” that they start to view both the church and the world less charitably?

Wisdom – These books represent the cultivation of much wisdom in an era that wasn’t full of the distractions of our era.  While we will inevitably turn back to our modern writers; there is much to be gained from seeing how scripture was interpreted in a previous century.  They did their homework so to speak, and interacted with others who were on the same path of study; and some of them were simply a few hundred years “closer to the story” than we are today.

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What classic authors do you enjoy?

What about material that pre-dates this, what we call “early Christian writings?”

Why did I not mention Charles Spurgeon?

*Gotta love the redundancy of the name, “Avenue Road.”   Still exists, running parallel to Toronto’s main drag, Yonge Street.   (Pronounced “young street.”)

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